Vinokourov wins Olympic gold

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Alexandre Vinokourov takes out the elite men's road race. (Getty Images)

Kazakh Alexandre Vinokourov took his country's first Olympic road cycling gold medal after winning a two-up sprint at the end of some 250 kilometres over Colombian Rigoberto Uran in the elite men's road race.

Earlier in the day, spectators were out bright and early for first cycling medal event of the London 2012 Olympics, the elite men's road race, starting outside the gates of the iconic Buckingham Palace.

The big question pre-race was who could deny sprint-ace Mark Cavendish, the overwhelming favourite - and what would nine times up Box Hill produce from a high quality field?

The first attempt to challenge the Manxman and his British team came very early on when a dangerous looking break of 11 riders formed.

Some big names were among them, Denis Menchov, Janez Brajkovic, and Stuart O'Grady all making the move.

Rallied by the six time Olympian, they quickly built a sizable advantage, which stretched out to more than six minutes.

Behind, the responsibility of the chase was left to sprint-hungry Team GB and, to a lesser extent, Andre Greipel’s Germany.

After 110 kilometres the leash tightened, as the Brits began to reel in the leaders.

But as the gap diminished the inevitable counter-move came, led by decorated Italian Vincenzo Nibali and Philippe Gilbert.

The duo were joined by nine others and quickly closed on the front group to form a 22-strong vanguard.

A lack of attrition on the Box Hill circuit saw the situation remain largely status quo coming into the final ascent of the much discussed climb.

On the last 2.5km uphill push, and 50km from home, Gilbert, insisted with a solo move, as a flurry of attacks came out of the peloton behind.

Gilbert was swallowed up as the race hit the run for home, but it was not by the peloton, but by a swollen escape that now numbered more than 30 riders. Fabian Cancellara was there, as was Alejandro Valverde.

An interminable tug of war followed between the chase and the peloton. Some momentum was lost when Cancellara crashed out, but the chase behind was completely decimated. Froome and Wiggins popping within minutes of each other to leave the chase headless.

Colombian Rigoberto Uran took an advantage of a lull to launch an opportunistic late move and was joined by Alexandre Vinokourov.

The two stabilised their advantage, and in the sprint that ensued, Vinokourov was too quick of Uran.

Vinokourov, 38, who immediately announced his retirement, wrote the last chapter of a turbulent career.

He only returned to cycling in 2009 after serving a two-year ban for his part in a drug scandal at the 2007 Tour de France.But the blond-haired racer, who is also known for his tactical nous and aggressive style, said his shady past was now behind him.

"I closed that chapter of my life in 2007 and I've proved today that I didn't come back for nothing. I've come here today and achieved a dream," said Vinokourov.

 Later, Uran played down suggestions he had given up the fight.

"No, I didn't lose my concentration. We'd done the last 10km at full speed," said the Colombian.

"I looked to my right and suddenly Alexandre took off. I didn't have anything left for a sprint."It's a very important medal for me. We didn't think we had any chance of winning a medal today because there were a lot of big teams with five riders."

Despite the pre-Olympics hype of a British outfit labelled the "Dream Team", a disappointed Cavendish was philosophical in defeat.

"There was a group of 22 who got away and we couldn't pull them back," Cavendish said, before praising the efforts of his team-mates in trying to set up a British victory.

"I can be proud of how the lads rode today. I'm proud of my country as there was incredible support. The guys are sat there, they are spent. They have got nothing left in the tank. It's incredible to see that," he said.

Norwegian Alexander Kristoff took third.

Olympic Men's Road Race: 250km, London
1 Alexandre Vinokurov (KAZ) 5hr 45min 57sec      
2 Rigoberto Uran Uran (COL)            
3 Alexander Kristoff (NOR) 0:00:08      
4 Taylor Phinney (USA)            
5 Sergey Lagutin (UZB)            
6 Stuart O'Grady (AUS)            
7 Jurgen Roelandts (BEL)            
8 Gregory Rast (SWI)            
9 Luca Paolini (ITA)            
10 Jack Bauer (NZL)

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